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Robert H. Gundry
On Oden's Answer
My thanks to Books & Culture for inviting me to respond to Thomas C. Oden's "Calm Answer" to my critique of "The Gospel of Jesus Christ: An Evangelical Celebration," and to Oden for trying to answer the critique calmly. Naturally, third parties will judge for themselves whether or not there is enough calmness in his answer to make a true contrast with agitation in the critique.
Oden writes that he and his fellow drafters of "Celebration" had hoped to be spared "this sort of public squabble." What then of their statements in "Celebration" that "doctrinal disagreements call for debate" and that "useful dialogue … requires not only charity in our attitudes, but also clarity in our utterances"? On what grounds has Oden classified the present debate as a "public squabble" rather than as a "useful dialogue"? And since my discussion of imputation, which captures more space by far than lesser topics, deals with the self-proclaimed center of "Celebration," how can he rightly accuse me of an attack on the "edges"?
I accept Oden's statement that "the drafters of 'Celebration' sought to be as inclusive as possible of major evangelical voices"; but as explicitly stated in the critique, my concern has been that whatever the drafters' intention, at points the wording of "Celebration" excludes, or at least can easily and naturally be read as excluding, such voices. Oden's suggestion to the contrary notwithstanding, nowhere have I said or hinted, nor have I entertained the thought, that it "is not a decent goal" for "'Celebration' … to define those points of common understanding upon which diverse evangelicals agree." My criticisms do not imply an assault against that worthy goal. By and large they have rather aimed to help achieve it by insuring that the wording of "Celebration" not exclude certain evangelicals. It is therefore out of bounds for Oden to ask, "Why would not our critic wish to see such an irenic effort succeed … ?"
"It is an exaggerated and defensive ...